Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Michiru Mountain Trail, a “Third World Conservation”.

I’ve learned my lesson. Not to wear my LL Bean (teva) sandals on a trail and not to ASSume the trail is like any other I’ve encountered in the Northeast (US) and parts of its Appalachian Trail. When several volunteers from the hostel invited me to come along, I’m like oh cool, a hike. I’ve not gone on a proper hike (not counting a small mountain near where I grew up, and miles of streets in New York City) for years.

The Michiru Mountain conservatory is one of the closest one to Blantyre, about 9 kilometers away. The road was difficult, some smooth, a couple short wooden bridges (in a taxi cab – nerve wracking), and a gap in the road that the cab cautiously drove into and out minding the tail pipe wouldn’t be scraped out from under . Eventually we reached the conservatory. There were several trails ranging in difficulty and one trail for birdwatching. The group opted for the difficult trail all the way to the top of the summit which is 1,470 meters high. Why not?

Unfortunately, because my Doxy med (anti-malaria) can’t be taken for two hours if I consumed dairy products (sometimes a challenge for breakfast) so I had taken it just prior to the hike. And in combination with my other prescription meds, my heart went sky high from climbing a short steep hill. I was sweating profusely. I was more embarrassed than winded. It never happened to be before with my heart rate this high and rivulets of sweat running down my body from my head and neck. Several times I had to stop to rest and continue to drink water – I felt old and sick. Also my sandals attracted snagging by long plants, grass, and rocks on the trail, so in addition to being winded, I kept tripping, occasionally stumbling. After the first rest, my heart went to normal thudding properly from an exercise. However when we neared the top, I started seeing black spots, and sat down for good 10 or 15 minutes. The other three continued to the summit and the guide stayed behind with me with his rifle. I guess I’d be a weak prey for the large mammals (leopard, jaguar or big baboon monkey) – eventually I reached the top with the guide and I thanked him for not shooting me because I was weak and idiotic for wearing my sandals. One other volunteer in the group, a German medical student also wore tevas sandals – he didn’t have a problem but he was a little faster than me. The two young English women, 18 years old and wearing sneakers, full time smokers and first time on a trail were perfectly fine other than being winded. It looked like it was a little rough walk in the park for them.

The height of the summit was amazing. The Shire Highlands and other koppies (South African word for small mountains – more like big hills) appeared as dollops on the ground. We could see several towns laid out between or at the base of the koppies. Blantyre is a very hilly city – not as steep as San Francisco streets though. We could see Mulanje mountain (about 70 kilometers away) that is bigger than Michiru and possibly Zomba mountain. We took several pictures, posed on the summit and our guide as well.

The trip down the trail to the base was even worse, more work on your feet, knees, thighs, and hips to maintain balance, not to pitch forward. And plants and grass snagging at my toes and sandals – about three-quarters of the time I’d be stumbling and falling down. But I bounced back and I’m still amazed I don’t have bruises – only minor cuts from plants and fallen tree branches, a wicked blister, and a calloused skin torn off from my big toe. My feet were sweaty so the callous softened and scraped off, from the exertion of keeping my balance on the steep trail. Sort of like a rough pedicure on the trail. Matthias, the German med student kept monitoring me, reminding me to drink water and dawdled behind me. I think he conjured up quite a number of possible scenarios involving me – him treating me for a cut, scrape, or even worse a broken bone. He was a tad nervous. Near the bottom I did have a nasty fall – we were walking down a relatively easy trail but I missed a step. The next thing I knew, I was on a steep side off the trail, my hands holding to thick plants and my feet anchored. Matthias had to pull me up – I strained my left shoulder from grabbing the plants for anchor.

I sure kept the group entertained. We reached the bottom and in the last 100 feet or so I kept the stumbling to a minimum until I slipped on a small dirt mound on a very level ground by the office and fell on my butt. The mountain had its last word with me.

We (I missed them due to communication barriers – not fast enough for a paper and pen) saw a bushbuck, a vervet monkey and some sort of a large bird. Afterwards, we took the taxi back along the same road we took earlier we spotted a large baboon monkey in the middle of the road. The taxi slowed but inched a little further and further for a better look. I managed a picture until the monkey left the road into the cornfield.


Anonymous Lisa said...

Yahoo an adventure!!!

I understand how you feel. I felt the same thing the first time I went out on a bike ride and hike with a group of Americans in Thailand - despite all of my bike riding in US, I lagged behind (the bike had really crappy gears and the chain kept getting clogged) and I kept feeling dizzy (probably due to the same anti-malaria pills you have)

and then again at the hike to the cave and waterfall --- being last due to no shoes, slipping, trying to keep control and balanced to no avail... *sigh* I guess whatever shape or whatever we have done out in the States does not carry over to countries we travel in :( ha.

But hey, good times! :)

2/25/2009 9:23 AM  
Blogger Kate O. Breen said...

good times, Lisa! Cheers *raises a wine glass*

Yeah I felt ungainly and my limbs seemed to fail in communicating with my brain.

2/26/2009 12:41 AM  
Blogger Gael said...

I recognize those feet! Sounds like great times!

xoxo Mom

2/26/2009 7:12 AM  
Blogger MCC Brazil! said...

Maybe you should start smoking, stop the malarial medication, and steal someone's gym shoes and you'll be all set next time! :) You were a good sport to keep hiking, Kate, and am glad you monitored yourself and kept your sense of humor. I wonder if this had anything to do with elevation, too. Did I tell you that the malarial medication can make you nauseous, too? I am constantly nauseous on it - blech, but it keeps you ALIVE...

I really am looking forward to seeing your photos from the top and more photos of you.

GLad you are taking time to chill rather than working all the time.

2/26/2009 7:17 AM  
Blogger Nicar Bocalan said...

Awesome Shrek feet :)

2/26/2009 8:29 PM  
Blogger Kate O. Breen said...

Dr Wilson - yes they make me nauseous too! See the new post.

Nicar - I hope you are referring to FIONA shrek??

3/01/2009 7:32 AM  

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